Not too long ago, we enjoyed a nice little tour through the great book Make Time.
As part of that fun adventure, we briefly talked about the guy who invented the first super-precise watch in response to a challenge issued by British government in the 1700s.
We quoted Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky who told us: “In 1714, the British government offered a £20,000 prize (that’s $5 million in 2018 money), to anyone who could invent a portable clock that could be used aboard ships. It took nearly fifty years and dozens of prototypes until finally, in 1761, John Harrison created the first ‘chronometer.’ It was a technological marvel that changed the world even though it was barely portable—the clock had to be mounted in a special cabinet and stowed belowdecks for its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the HMS Deptford.”
Then: “Today you can buy a portable clock—that is, a digital quartz wristwatch—for ten bucks. It’s always accurate. It’s lightweight and waterproof. It can wake you up after a nap or remind you to take dinner out of the oven. It’s an amazing piece of technology.”
After sharing that +1, my friend Zac Zeitlin told me about a book he loved about Harrison and his pursuit of that watch called Longitude. Zac’s a machine with great recs, so, of course, I immediately got the book. And, I immediately read it. It’s AWESOME.
All of which brings us one step closer to the point of Today’s +1.
When I first read that quote above I thought to myself. “Cool. Some guy created a precise watch. Thanks, guy!”
I assumed he worked hard to do it but, frankly, I didn’t really think that much about it.
Then I read the book about his DECADES-long (heroic) quest to create a seaworthy, precise watch.
We’ll talk more about his quest in our next +1.
Let’s look at our watch (or the time on our computer or smartphone or car’s dashboard or…) and remember that, just a few hundred years ago, SUNDIALS were still the primary means of telling time.
Thank you, John Harrison.